The Great American Songbook, Holiday Edition: The Christmas Song

Mel Tormé was a multi-talented force in 20th Century jazz music. 

Arguably the most iconic Christmas song of all time was written on a scorching hot afternoon in southern California. The year was 1945 and jazz renaissance man Mel Tormé had just arrived at the home of his writing partner, Bob Wells for that afternoon's creative session. As Mel let himself inside the Well's home in Toluca Lake to escape the blistering heat, he called out for his friend and received no answer. He then wandered over to the piano where he saw Wells' spiral notepad open. Overtaken by curiosity, Tormé began to read some of the lines Wells had just created,

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire / Jack frost nipping at your nose / Yuletide carols being sung by a choir / And folks dressed up like eskimos
— The Christmas Song

When Wells arrived, he told his friend, "It's so damn hot today, I thought I'd write something to cool myself off. All I could think of Christmas and cold weather." Tormé replied, "I think you might have something here." Thus inspired, the two settled down to work with Wells providing the lyrics and Tormé the music. Within 45 minutes the song was complete. In his autobiography, Tormé would recall, 

Excitedly, we called Carlos Gaste [manager of Nat King Cole], sped into Hollywood, played it for him, then Johnny Burke, and then for Nat Cole, who fell in love with the tune. It took a full year for him to get into a studio and record it, but his record finally came out in late fall of 1946; and the rest could be called our financial pleasure.
— Mel Tormé

Over the ensuing years, Nat King Cole would lay down several different recordings of the tune - the definitive version being released in 1960.  The debut of "The Christmas Song" in the United States would mark the first time a holiday standard was ever introduced by a black singer. Although many others have covered it, Cole's rendition remains the most iconic and it's safe to say that no one's Christmas season is complete without a hearing of it. Enjoy!